Flesch Kincaid Readability & SEO: Why It Matters

by | Jun 18, 2021 | Marketing | 0 comments

Flesch Kincaid Readability & SEO: Why It Matters

Being a talented writer does not mean that the copy you draft for your website will automatically rank on the search engine results page (SERP). Search engine optimization (SEO) is a tricky beast dependent upon dozens of variables, including the proper use of keywords, utilizing the right keywords, and writing copy with your target audience and their Flesch Kincaid readability scores in mind.

If you’re new to writing web copy or haven’t utilized a tool like Yoast, you might not be familiar with the Flesch Kincaid reading scores – and that’s okay! We are here to walk you through what they are, how your Flesch Kincaid reading ease scores are determined, why they’re important for SEO, and how to improve your scores.

The Flesch Kincaid Readability Formulas

The Flesch-Kincaid readability scores (determined by the Flesch reading ease formula and the Flesch-Kincaid grade level formula) are commonly used measures of readability (how easily someone can read and comprehend written text) in the United States. As the name suggests, a little bit of math is required to determine the scores. If math isn’t your thing, there are plenty of tools to help you determine your score. (More on that later).

Flesch Reading Ease Formula

The Flesch reading ease formula is based on a scale of 0-100. The higher your score, the easier your text is to read and grasp. The lower your score, the more complex your text is to read, and therefore more challenging to understand.

Flesch Reading Ease Score Formula Breakdown

RE = 206.835 – (1.015 x ASL) – (84.6 x ASW) 

RE = Readability ease

ASL = Average sentence length (The number of words divided by the number of sentences)

ASW = Average number of syllables/word (The number of syllables divided by the number of words)

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Formula:

The Flesch-Kincaid grade level formula tells you what United States school grade level you would need to be in to understand a specific passage of written text.

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Formula Breakdown:

FKRA = (.39 x ASL) + (11.8 x ASW) – 15.59

FKRA = Flesch-Kincaid reading age

ASL = Average sentence length (The number of words divided by the number of sentences)

ASW = Average number of syllables/word (The number of syllables divided by the number of words)

Both formulas use the same metrics to determine their outcomes (sentence length and word length) but a high numerical score in one area means a lower numerical score in the other.

For example, if your Flesch Reading Ease score is high, (between 90 – 100) then your Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level will be around a 5th grade reading level.

Inversely, if your Flesch Reading Ease score is low (30 – 50) then your Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level is around that of a college student.

Flesch Kincaid Readability: What Should Your Score Be?

Now that you know the science (or in this case, the math) behind Flesch Kincaid readability, it’s time to learn what will work best for your website. (You can use the below Flesch reading ease table for reference).

Flesch Reading Ease Score Table

Score School Level Notes
100.00–90.00 5th grade Very easy to read. Easily understood by an average 11-year-old student.
90.0–80.0 6th grade Easy to read. Conversational English for consumers.
80.0–70.0 7th grade Fairly easy to read.
70.0–60.0 8th grade & 9th grade Plain English. Easily understood by 13- to 15-year-old students.
60.0–50.0 10th to 12th grade Fairly difficult to read.
50.0–30.0 College Difficult to read.
30.0–0.0 College graduate Very difficult to read. Best understood by university graduates.

Write With Your Audience In Mind 

When it comes to writing, there is one thing you always have to keep in mind: your audience.

If you’re writing technical content that requires a background understanding of the topic(s) at hand, you’ll likely optimize your content to hit a Flesch reading ease score of 50 or below.

Conversely, if you’re drafting content that you want to be easily consumed, (and with the secret hope it may go viral), you should aim for a score in the 90 – 100 range, geared toward ancreative-man-working-on-computer-flesch-kincaid-grade-level audience with the Flesch-Kincaid grade level of a fifth-grader.

There is no concrete answer as to what grade level the average American adult can read at, however, a majority of estimates predict it’s around an 8th-grade reading level.

Popular works written at around an 8th-grade reading level include:

  • The Harry Potter series
  • The Great Gatsby
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • Lord Of The Rings

Most website copy should fall within this range, with a Flesch reading ease score in the 60 – 70 range that can be easily comprehended by someone with an 8th – 9th-grade reading level.

How To Improve Your Flesch Reading Score

So, you test your website copy and your Flesch reading ease score falls below a score of 60-70: what next?

If your website receives a low Flesch-Kincaid reading ease score, you will likely need to simplify your text. Take the below steps to improve the readability of your text.

Improve Your Website’s Readability:

  • Reduce the length of your sentences. If the majority of your copy consists of long sentences, try breaking them into two smaller sentences
  • Use shorter and simpler words where possible
  • Keep your paragraphs short
  • Break up long sections of text by adding headings or subheadings

flesch-kincaid-reading-ease-and-how-it-helps-seoNot sure what your web copy’s Flesch reading ease score is? Need help identifying and implementing edits to improve your Flesch reading ease score? These tools can help!

Tools To Improve Flesch Kincaid Readability

Yoast SEO

The Yoast plugin will analyze your text and populate a green, yellow, or red bullet depending on your Flesch reading ease assessment score. If your copy populates a green bullet point, your text is easily readable. If it populates a yellow bullet, you’re on the right path, but your copy needs some modifications. If your copy produces a red bullet, you’ve got some work to do.

Luckily, if you get a red or yellow bullet, the Yoast plugin will offer suggestions to help improve your copy’s specific issues.

WebFX Readability Tool

When using the WebFX Readability Tool, you can determine the readability of a web page or the readability of a specific portion of text on a web page. The WebFX Readability Tool will produce the Flesch reading ease score and the Flesch Kincaid grade level (as well as the results of other, less common readability tests).

Aside from that, it shares the:

  • Number of sentences
  • Number of words
  • Number of complex words
  • Percent of complex words
  • Average words per sentence
  • Average syllables per word

Readability Analyzer 

Like the WebFX Readability tool, the Readability Analyzer asks you to copy and paste your text into the tool. From there, the WebFX Readability tool produces feedback paragraph by paragraph, stating how many readability issues are in each paragraph.

Implementing Flesch Kincaid Readability Into Your Website

Writing with Flesch Kincaid readability in mind isn’t necessarily easy or intuitive for most writers, let alone business owners with dozens of other tasks to juggle.

If you decide to take this task on, we encourage you to remember these three basic rules of thumb:

  1. When it comes to the words you use, basic is better. (This isn’t the time to impress your readers with your fancy vocabulary.)
  2. Keep your sentences short.
  3. If your text is getting too wordy, break it up with a heading or subheading.

Let Gravity Junction Help Improve your Flesch Kincaid Readability and overall SEO

If you’re struggling to write web copy, optimize it for SEO, or keep up with the day to day minutia of managing a website, know that you don’t have to do it alone. You can rely on the Gravity Junction team as your extra set of hands to accomplish all things SEO, web design, web development, and digital marketing.

As a people-fueled, tech-first marketing company, we are ready to help take your business to the next level. Contact us today.


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